Training Magazine Middle East March 2015 - Page 38

Almost every training course is designed to teach us to succeed. Our nature is to excel, and the concept of getting better at failure is a foreign one.

However, the pace and rate of change in business is now highlighting a very real need for us to learn and improve our ability to fail.

The military are taught early on, fail fast, fail often and minimize the damage each time.

Jim Collins, in his book, Great By Choice, talks about firing bullets before cannon balls. He is referring to the need to experiment with small projects – calibrating the results, and adjusting and correcting – before investing big and launching your cannonball.

Though we might understand the theory, how do organisations, leaders and individual contributors react to failure?

Let’s Start With Organisations

All corporate architectures are set up to withstand risk and change, according to John Seely Brown, author, speaker and co-chairperson at Deloitte’s Centre for the Edge in Silicon Valley. He says that all corporate planning efforts attempt to scale efficiency and predictability, working to create static, or at least controlled, growth environments in the belief that they will reduce risk. In today’s fast-changing world, we need just the opposite – constant experimentation and process iteration to reduce risk. Seely Brown calls this “scalable learning”.

Unfortunately, within traditional organisations, failure is not welcomed. You hear CEOs quoting the NASA motto, “Failure is not an option”. Though meant to be inspiring, this approach leads to innovation that is safe and incremental, instead of radical, disruptive or game changing.

Some organisations are shifting focus, making experimentation and failure perfectly acceptable. Procter & Gamble have a Heroic Failure award. It honors the employee or team with the biggest failure that delivered the greatest insight. Tata Group offers an annual Dare To Try award, which recognizes managers who took the biggest risk.

Does this mean any mistake or failure is acceptable? No, but it comes down to leadership creating a framework and culture where failure is an option, one that you don’t lose your job over.

COLUMN - What's Next?


what's next?